With only a few more weeks in Season 19, tonight's "Dancing With the Stars" saw superior choreography, breath-taking routines and yet another twist in the competition -- the Celebrity Dance Duel. And at the end of the show, two couples were at the top of the leaderboard with perfect scores for their individual dances.
The opening number featured pro dancer Mark Ballas making like a songbird instead of a dancer. While other pros danced around him, Mark sang "Get My Name" and then joined in for a rousing dance routine that was capped with a few more bars of the song.
Of the six couples dancing, the first and last couples to the floor scooped up the sizzling scores. After finding out that they were safe to dance next week, Charlie White and Sharna Burgess led off the show with a quickstep that was the perfect vehicle for Charlie to work off the anger and frustration he showed last week after so-so scores. The two performed a terrific quickstep that was filled with fancy footwork, but head judge Len Goodman referred to last week when he told Charlie that he would let him know later if the dance "was special enough." Both guest judge Abby Lee Miller of "Dance Moms" and judge Bruno Tonioli commented on Charlie's musicality, with Bruno comparing him to a thoroughbred bolting out of the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby. Scores: judge Carrie Ann Inaba, 10; Len, 10 (with a sly smile); Abby, 10; Bruno, 10 = 40
Last to the dance floor was Amy Purdy and Derek Hough who performed an Argentine tango. Derek is proving himself to be a superior choreographer, especially working around Amy's problems with her back and rib. Their tango was sexy and sophisticated, and managed to include a stool in the dance steps. As Bruno said, "Power -- check, control -- check, precision -- check, immersion into the character -- check: Perfection -- check." Judge Carrie Ann Inaba said that she felt like she stopped breathing about three times, and Len said this entire season is stunning. Amy told co-host Erin Andrews that she was doing well physically, thanks to massage and chiropractic help between every rehearsal. Scores: 10; 10; 10;10 = 40
I agree with Len about Season 18. It was tough to see who could be eliminated because all of the couples are dancing so well, and the season is down to the very best dancers. Danica McKeller and Val Chmerkovskiy performed a sexy tango that Bruno described as majestic. Carrie Ann told Danica that she "hit every shape gorgeously," and Len said she was "on it like a bonnet." Huh? Scores: 10; 9; 9; 10 = 38
Unfortunately, the night didn't end the way that Danica and Val would have liked. After the pair, along with Candace Cameron-Bure and Mark Ballas, and James Maslow and Peta Murgatroyd, were announced to be in jeopardy earlier in the show, Danica and Val were eliminated after the dancing was over. At least, the producers have learned not to kick someone off in the middle of the show, as they did with Diana Nyad.
"It's been absolutely amazing," said Danica. "I had the best time ever. I didn't want any of them (indicating the other dancers) eliminated so it's OK." Val said, "She's a great, great person, she works really hard. She's a great individual," and Danica added, "Thank you, Val, for everything. You taught me so much."
For me, the rumba by Meryl Davis and Maks Chmerkovskiy was incredible and probably would have gotten higher scores if it wasn't so provocative. The pair told the story in dance of two people fighting and then reconciling, and it included a full slap by Meryl across Maks' face. When the routine was finished and the couple walked over to hear what the judges had to say, host Tom Bergeron leaned in and said, "You could have heard a pin drop (during the dance)." Bruno said it was "totally Tennessee Williams," Len said the mood and feeling was fantastic, but both he and Carrie Ann wanted more actual rumba steps. Scores: 9; 9; 8; 10 = 36
The couple with the biggest difference in their performance from previous weeks was Candace and Mark. Candace seemed to have gotten a grip on her nerves, remembered all of the steps and was determined to have a good time, and it showed. Their foxtrot was a lot of fun to watch, and Len called it "bright, fun, joyful to watch," and Bruno praised her growth as a performer. Scores: 9; 9; 9; 9 = 36
James and Peta performed a Viennese waltz that had all the romance and smooth dance moves that any dating couple would want -- oh, they say they are just friends. Uh-huh. Abby said it was a male dancer's job to make the woman look amazing and he succeeded, but both Len and Carrie Ann mentioned that James' posture needs improving in hold. Scores: 8; 9; 10; 9 =36
The Celebrity Dance Duel was OK as something a little different: two couples began a dance together on the floor, then the pros left the two celebs to dance with each other for a 20-second solo, then everyone danced at the end. The first team was Danica and Val with Meryl and Maks, and it was interesting to see the brothers try to mesh their very different styles of teaching. In the end, I think Danica and Meryl suffered from those differences, and of the three duel dances, theirs was the lowest scoring. I also think the foursome suffered from being the first on the floor in this new feature. Abby even nit-picked about their shoes, saying Danica and Meryl should have been wearing heels. Geez. Scores: 8; 9; 8; 9 = 34 added to each couple's individual score.
Charlie and Sharna danced a contemporary number with Candace and Mark and it was fantastic. The celebs' solo was like a gymnastics routine with Charlie throwing Candace around like a feather. Abby said Candace's feet were beautiful -- she was very picky about feet all night -- and Bruno said Charlie and Candace were "made for each other." Scores: 9; 9; 10; 10 = 38
Finally, James and Peta performed a jive with Amy and Derek, and what could have been a disaster, considering Amy's balance on her prosthetics, was absolutely incredible. Carrie Ann pointed out that even when Amy was dancing with James, instead of Derek, they matched the pros, and Len said, "That was everything and more that I wished to see." It was a remarkable performance from all four dancers. Scores: 9; 10; 10; 10 = 39
When all of the scores were added together, Amy and Derek were on top with a total of 79, followed by Charlie and Sharna with a total of 78. In the middle were James and Peta with a total of 75 and Candace and Mark with a total of 74. Now hold onto your chairs, at the bottom were Danica and Val with 72 -- but they were eliminated -- and Meryl and Maks with the lowest total score of 70! Unbelievable! The odds-makers are choosing Meryl to win it all -- what will they do with this??
What is going to happen now? Will the fan base who love Maks and Meryl continue to support them with their votes and keep them in the competition? If this pair is eliminated, that would be a super-shocker! Next week are the semifinals -- who do you think will rise to the top? Will Candace hang in there and will James bid the ballroom farewell? See you next week -- keep dancing.